Reina returns to coaching at Advance Wrestling Academy in Eastern Pennsylvania

By Gary Abbott | Oct. 18, 2010, 6:12 p.m. (ET)
Wrestling has a hold on people. Just ask Roger Reina, who retired as the head wrestling coach at the Univ. of Pennsylvania about five years ago.

Since then, he has worked in executive positions for Penn Medical and Ticket Leap Sports, which offered professional challenges outside of the wrestling arena. However, after the 2011 NCAA Div. I Championships was awarded to Philadelphia, Reina stepped up in a leadership role with the event as its local chairman, and the wrestling bug bit him hard.

"I got back involved with friends and colleagues in the wrestling business" said Reina. "Over the last six months, being in charge of the local organizing committee for the NCAA Championships, it hit me that it was time to do something in the community. I am really excited to coach again."

Reina has developed the Advance Wrestling Academy, which will provide high-level wrestling instruction for young athletes. The program will launch at Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, Pa. this fall, with Reina leading a talented staff looking to make an impact on the local wrestling community.

"We will take the system we developed at Penn, with the local Dave Schultz Wrestling Club in Philadelphia and at our youth camps" said Reina. "We know a system that works, and we have taught it successfully at all age groups. I was very fortunate to learn from those who have been in this area, including 1988 Olympic coach Jim Humphrey and Olympic champion Dave Schultz."

Although Reina has worked with elite athletes during his coaching career, part of the excitement he finds in coaching is helping any wrestler to find improvement.

"For me, the most rewarding and inspiring aspect of coaching was to take an athlete to the next level, his first varsity win, first varsity pin, first tournament title" said Reina.

There is no doubt that Reina has an impressive coaching record. Reina helped establish the Quakers as a national power, putting strong teams on the mat each year. During his 19 years at the helm, Penn was consistently in the Top 20 nationally, and finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships three times. Four years in a row, Penn won the EIWA Championships under his leadership.

He also developed many individual stars, including an Olympic champion and an NCAA Div. I national champion. Reina coached 63 NCAA qualifiers, 31 EIWA champions, 17 NCAA All-Americans and three NCAA finalists. All of this was achieved at an Ivy League school, where the athletes are held to a high academic standard along with their athletic responsibilities.

All along, he was very also active with USA Wrestling, helping develop successful Senior-level athletes with the Dave Schultz WC and working with youth athletes within the community. Penn hosted the U.S. World Team Trials a number of times under his direction. In addition, he helped coach Pennsylvania's national teams competing at the USA Wrestling Cadet and Junior Nationals.

Reina will have many other talented coaches helping with the Advance Academy. Steve Hill, the head coach at Germantown Academy, has been successful coaching at the national prep school level. NCAA qualifiers Matt Herrington and Andy Baker of Penn and Zack Doll of Pitt are among the other coaches.

The academy will have two different programs, one for athletes from second to seventh grades, and another for those from eighth grade through high school.

Among the guest clinicians who will help at the Academy are stars who competed for Reina, including Olympic champion Brandon Slay and NCAA champions Brett Matter and Matt Valenti. All are more than willing to provide testimonials about Reina's abilities as a coach.

"logo.jpgted in all these areas, and Roger Reina is extremely rare" said Slay, who currently serves as USA Wrestling's Assistant National Freestyle Coach.

"Coach Reina made me a better wrestler, student and overall person as he had the ability to push me and my teammates beyond limits we had previously thought possible" said Matter.

"I was fortunate to wrestle for Coach Reina and experience his technique and training systems first hand. I attribute much of my collegiate success to the training, skills and mentality that I learned during my years at Penn under Coach Reina" said Valenti.

Although Reina hopes to help develop great champions like Slay, Matter and Valenti through the academy, his main focus will be helping each of his wrestlers to improve beyond their current levels.

"We call the academy 'Advance.' It is not advanced, not an elite all-star club. It is designed to take any wrestler we train to the next step. It is like climbing a big hill, one step at a time. We are open to all abilities, skill levels and backgrounds" said Reina.

Building the Advance Wrestling Academy will not be the only major wrestling project in front of Reina this year. As chair of the local effort for the 2011 NCAA Championships, Reina will be continuing his efforts to promote the event all over the East Coast, as well as to help provide a memorable experience for the fans who attend the tournament.

Reina said that the competition is close to getting sold out, which would mean that there could be attendance records set this year. He expects it to be a very knowledgeable crowd coming from all across the region. It is the first time that Philadelphia has hosted the NCAA Championships, as well as the first time in a decade that it has been held back East. He is also very excited about some of the community activities associated with the event, as well as the many educational elements that it has provided.

"We are really excited. It will be very unique in a number of ways" said Reina. "We dug into the archives and found a quote from Ben Franklin, where he wrote about wrestling in a document about the education of youth. We are sending a message that sports and wrestling intertwine with the education of youth in our nation. This is a long-standing and good idea which goes back 260 years."

Roger Reina is back involved in wrestling again, jumping in both-feet first. It should be very good for the sport.